What’s in a name?

Undaunted by the problems that make Athens Europe’s most troubled capital, Athens City Council approved a proposal to rename Vassilissis Amalias and Vassilissis Sofias avenues as Constantine Karamanlis and Andreas Papandreou avenues. Greece’s political leaders across the left-right spectrum are keen to demonstrate their democratic sentiment, taking every opportunity to demolish any indirect reference to the country’s royal past. Thirty years after it was abolished, the monarchy is still viewed as a «threat.» But that is not all. It is interesting to see the rationale behind the name change. Karamanlis and Papandreou shaped the post-1974 political landscape and, for that reason, the theory goes, the streets flanking the House of Parliament should be renamed after them. No doubt many of the current MPs were colleagues or admirers of the aforementioned politicians (with the exception of the two left-wing parties). But the factions led by the late Karamanlis and Papandreou have a past as well as a future, since they express the two main tendencies in society. More leaders will come and go. Like all cities, Athens has developed a certain character over the years. Renaming streets in accordance with the political developments of the time is in vain. Panepistimiou Street was renamed Eleftheriou Venizelou, while Pireos was renamed Panagi Tsaldari but the changes never really registered with the people. A new change would give rise to many practical problems and the proposal will probably not go through. Nevertheless, the recommendation by Christos Papoutsis and the positive reaction by the council showed that the political system is uneasy with historical sentiment. There is no political memory, nor is there a sense of continuity and that is the main characteristic, as well as problem, of Greece’s political scene.

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